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Gerry

Energy-starved Africa is a prime market for the massive deployment of battery energy storage technology

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 19:03 -- John Shepherd

According to the International Energy Agency, some 600 million people across the continent have no access to electricity… So, as BEST Battery Briefing reports, the multi-million euro cash boost for South African Pb firm Elektron Energy, to develop its bipolar battery tech, should be welcomed.

Interestingly, Elektron’s grant is derived in part from European Union funding. To date, EU battery R&D funding has been wedded to lithium-ion, so finally prising some cash out of the bloc for advanced lead technology is a revelation.

The lead industry should take note and press for more, especially as latest figures indicate the lead-acid market in Africa alone is expected to be worth more than US$1 billion by 2021.

Meanwhile, Germany’s BMZ Group has launched a tie-up with forklift firm Kion to extend lithium’s reach into the lucrative industrial trucks market within and beyond Europe.

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BBB— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

And look out for the latest edition of our quarterly, sister publication, Batteries & Energy Storage Technology magazine, out this week. Click here to subscribe!
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Can Jaguar steer UK's battery ambitions into the fast lane?

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 13:46 -- John Shepherd

In a world mired in endless reports of economic gloom, Jaguar Land Rover’s announcement that it is to invest heavily in EV production in the UK is welcome news. 

And JLR’s call for industry to work with the government on jump starting “giga-scale” battery production— as reported in the latest edition of BEST Battery Briefing— is the icing on the cake.

Whether JLR’s bulldog spirit fires up the imagination needed for the UK to get cracking with battery production on a serious scale remains to be seen. But, once a new prime minister is installed, scheduled for 24 July, it would be foolish for the government not to grab such an opportunity with both hands as it maps out a trading and manufacturing future outside the EU.

Meanwhile, Hungary has been dipping into its state coffers again, to encourage another Asian battery maker to take root in the country, while Europe is still trying to build a home-grown industry to compete with Asian and other global market players. If anyone out there can explain the sense of this approach do send your answers in.

And remember that the summer edition of BESTmag will be out later this month. If you’re not already a subscriber to the BEST battery journal on the planet, click here.

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Battery tigers show their stripes— and won’t be tamed

Mon, 07/01/2019 - 10:36 -- John Shepherd

If there was any doubt that, in a gloomy global economic outlook, China might ease up on its frenetic pace to be a dominating force in the world’s EV battery market, think again.

Battery and carmaker CATL had already pledged to set up a major battery cells manufacturing base in Germany but, as one of our latest stories reveals, the company is ready to sink more than a billion euros into that one project alone to show it means business in Europe.

It’s clear Chinese players— and most likely other Asian battery ‘tigers’ too— are not going to be scared off or tamed by any commercial challenges from European consortia.

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy minister has said his government could end up putting cash into three such consortia, all whose job it will be to keep Asian battery makers such as CATL from eating into the rich pickings expected from future sales of batteries for EVs in Europe.

The irony is of course that CATL for one will also be cheerfully pocketing some state aid from Germany for its new facility— while at the same time competing with the Europeans!

“May you live in interesting times” is a quotation that is purported to be a Chinese curse, but whose true origin remains questionable. However, it certainly sums up the current state of play for the battery industry.

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Pb2019 Madrid: Transparency takes bull by the horns

Tue, 06/25/2019 - 16:54 -- John Shepherd

Nobody likes to see their dirty laundry washed in public— airing uncomfortable issues before one and all. Few major organisations have the courage to open their doors and invite potentially critical voices inside.

But that’s what the International Lead Association did at its Pb2019 conference in Madrid last week, when, as we report here and in BEST Battery Briefing, the environmental NGO Pure Earth was invited to address delegates.

It was a bold and ultimately praiseworthy move— one which even the NGO acknowledged emphasised the fundamental transparency and environmental credentials of the legitimate lead industry worldwide.

Health, safety and sustainability are key to underpinning confidence in the mix of battery technologies needed to feed our insatiable demand for energy into the future. Supply chains will rightly come under scrutiny.

In terms of lead, Pb2019 showed the sector is committed to continue growing in harmony with humankind and the environment.

To quote the former US Supreme Court associate justice, Louis Brandeis, "sunlight is the best disinfectant" in terms of exposing those acting in bad faith. Let’s hope the incoming European Commission reflects on that and does not, as Pb2019 was also warned, allow fresh politically-motivated attempts to emerge from the shadows and undermine the benefits of lead technology. 

Meanwhile, we report on the US state of Missouri’s backing for a study that could see lead batteries emerge as the ‘white knights of the road’— easing EV drivers’ range anxiety and keeping their lithium-powered vehicles from running out of juice! Elsewhere, another major fire in Europe underlines the urgency of resolving lithium’s recycling dilemma.

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Squaring the circle of sustainability

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 10:23 -- John Shepherd

Just how much good will we do by expanding the number of battery-powered vehicles on the world’s roads? The answer is ‘not much at all’ without some serious planning, if new advice from UK scientists is to be believed.

As BEST Battery Briefing reports this week, the scientists are warning of “huge implications” for our natural resources if countries stick to their target quotas for replacing ICE vehicles with EVs.

And even when the ‘green’ EVs are on the roads, the warning is that, without better planning, countries such as the UK won’t be able to generate the increased electricity required to keep the batteries charged.

If the scientific advice is correct, the world risks having to ride roughshod over its concerns about sustainability to dig up more and more precious resources in its quest to be ‘green’.

It’s an interesting conundrum but an issue that has to be addressed nonetheless.

Meanwhile, an initiative is getting under way to recover and recycle potentially tens of thousands of kilos of Pb products from remote communities in Alaska. Lead batteries continue to be one of the most sustainable products on the planet and might yet have the last laugh. 

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Batteries charging ahead with a positive jolt for the markets

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 09:53 -- John Shepherd

It’s an upbeat battery industry world we reported on over the past week— despite gloomy markets. But optimism does not wait on facts it deals with prospects. So said the late American political journalist and professor Norman Cousins.

The top story in the latest edition of BEST Battery Briefing is a case in point. The UK’s Johnson Matthey is ramping up investment to commercialise its enhanced lithium nickel oxide (eLNO) material, despite Brexit. 

The 'B' word still dominates the UK’s business agenda— more so with a race under way to find the next prime minister. But Johnson Matthey says it is “comfortable” with its commercial agenda, even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

In Asia, SK Innovation is pledging to bring “new” battery tech to market, despite being embroiled in a dispute with Korean rival LG Chem and coming under scrutiny from US trade chiefs.

Meanwhile, Indian lead producer Gravita is expanding in Africa, German lithium developer BMZ is doing the same in the US and Umicore has tightened its grip on the materials supply chain.

It’s not all gloom and doom out there!

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Supply chain deal boost for Europe in a materials world

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 09:32 -- John Shepherd

Umicore's deal to acquire cobalt refining and cathode prescursor activities in Finland— as reported in the latest edition of BEST Battery Briefing— is a key milestone along the path to securing the materials Europe will need to establish a 'home grown' battery industry.

The company raised the equivalent of more than U$1 billion in a shares sale last year, so it has the financial clout that is needed to play a major role as a European battery materials supplier.

Umicore is also stressing the ethical dimensions of its business, pointing out that it has agreements in place to certify that its products are free of artisanally-mined cobalt units and free of any child labour. This aspect of the global battery supply chain will come under increased scrutiny in future. All industry players will need to show that the practices used to bring their battery technology to market are as 'clean and green' as the end products. 

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BBB— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Is it a ‘Fannie and Freddie’ moment for lithium technology in the US?

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 12:39 -- John Shepherd

Safety concerns are top of the battery agenda again, as we reveal regulators' fears that the currently unexplained explosion at a grid-scale BESS plant in Arizona could trigger a review of safety standards. This could in turn spill over into the US residential storage market.

The US now joins South Korea at the tipping point of lithium battery fires. As far as the US is concerned, could this be a Fannie and Freddie moment— akin to the subprime mortgage crisis?

Utility chiefs and regulators in Arizona have said: "Batteries are the future for the US." If lithium technology is so important to that future and cannot be allowed to fail, then the industry needs to get a grip— and quickly.

Batteries of every chemistry have the potential to enjoy a bright future, if the plethora of projects and deals we report on in this issue are anything to go by. 

As we predicted last week, Sweden's Northvolt has secured the funds it needs to build what could be Europe's first commercial battery cells plant. Germany's VW is now a contender too, with a mystery partner backing its gigafactory plan.

But Chinese and Korean firms continue to tighten their grip on the EV battery supply market in Europe— this time in deals with Volvo. And despite geopolitical tensions between Seoul and Beijing, Korea's SK Innovation is to further expand in China. Even the UK's Moixa has not been held back by the Brexit debate in attracting international investors for its battery technology. 

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BEST Battery Briefing— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Has UK shot itself in the foot as starting pistol is fired in giga race?

Tue, 05/14/2019 - 13:45 -- John Shepherd

The race to the gigafactory finishing line in Europe is now well and truly under way, but who will be first or could it be a photo finish?

Tesvolt, as we report this week, is trumpeting its expansion of operations towards hitting 'giga' status, but the company is being coy about its schedule. So there could be all to play for if Northvolt gets its mega loan this week to build a commercial lithium-ion cells production facility in Sweden.

But the strangest of our stories this week has to be the news that the UK could consider pushing up taxes on low-carbon technologies such as battery storage. 

Regular readers of BEST Battery Briefing will know the UK government has been busy promoting its investments in battery tech over the past couple of years. In fact, PM Theresa May was crowing about her support for renewables when it was confirmed that Britain had had its first week without using electricity from burning coal since the 1880s. This crazy tax hike proposal should be shredded long before it gets within reach of a ministerial desk!

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BBB— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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Digging into deep pockets to strike battery gold

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 10:50 -- John Shepherd

It's going to take deep pockets to get Europe's fledgling Battery Alliance firing on all cylinders, so the EU is bringing in some heavy financial hitters to shore up the investment needed to secure a raw materials supply chain— one of the top stories in the latest edition of our BEST Battery Briefing e-newsletter has revealed.

The details are sketchy and it remains to be seen how the 'raw materials investment facility' will work in practice. But there's a global spending race under way to guarantee supplies of lithium battery 'gold' for the future, so cracking open the European piggy bank seems a good place to start.

Across the pond, it's refreshing to hear from BCI's annual get together that Uncle Sam is not going to be penny pinching when it comes to investing in battery tech for the future— and that the federal government is making sure Pb is given all the consideration and credit it deserves. 

But one wonders just how much the impact of fires involving lithium storage facilities in the US, South Korea and elsewhere will have on the outlook for investment in that sector in the near term.

Read the latest battery news here on our web site first. Remember, we publish a weekly round-up in BEST Battery Briefing— FREE every Monday— highlighting stories we've covered over the past week. Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here and if you're already a recipient and find BBB useful, please forward it to friends.

Meanwhile, make sure you've subscribed to Batteries & Energy Storage Technology (BEST) magazine— the world's leading publication on battery manufacture and design and the emerging field of large-scale electrical energy storage. The Spring 2019 issue is out now!

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